As the cooking time varies depending on the quality and age of the beans, it is good to cook them in advance and to reheat them when you are ready to serve. Cook the drained beans in a fresh portion of unsalted water in a large saucepan with the lid on until tender, adding water to keep them covered, and salt when the beans have softened. They take 2–2 1/2 hours of gentle simmering. When the beans are soft, let the liquid reduce. It is usual to take out a ladle or two of the beans and to mash them with some of the cooking liquid, then stir this back into the beans. This is to thicken the sauce.
Serve the beans in soup bowls sprinkled with chopped parsley and accompanied by Arab bread.
Pass round the dressing ingredients for everyone to help themselves: a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil, the quartered lemons, salt and pepper, a little saucer with the crushed garlic, one with chili-pepper flakes, and one with ground cumin.
The beans are eaten gently crushed with the fork, so that they absorb the dressing.
Optional Garnishes Peel hard-boiled eggs—1 per person—to cut up in the bowl with the beans.
Top the beans with a chopped cucumber-and-tomato salad and thinly sliced mild onions or scallions. Otherwise, pass round a good bunch of scallions and quartered tomatoes and cucumbers cut into sticks.
Serve with tahina cream sauce (page 65) or salad (page 67), with pickles and sliced onions soaked in vinegar for 30 minutes.
Another way of serving ful medames is smothered in a garlicky tomato sauce (see page 464).
In Syria and Lebanon, they eat ful medames with yogurt or feta cheese, olives, and small cucumbers.
Variations A traditional way of thickening the sauce is to throw a handful of red lentils (1/4 cup) into the water at the start of the cooking.
in a pot buried in hot coal or sand. Ful Medames can be served with many embellishments such as butter, tomato sauce, tahini, fried or boiled eggs and pastrami. However, the most traditional method is to eat it plain and salted in an Egyptian bread bun. Nowadays, Ful Medames is exported to many Middle Eastern countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
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One of the common staple foods in Egypt, it consists of lava beans served with oil, garlic and lemon juice. Ful Medames can be traced to Pharaonic roots, and quantities have been found in the Twelfth dynasty. The word “Medames” is Coptic for “buried” which refers to the way it was initially cooked: